Sunday, August 23, 2009

OL injury concerns and other preseason Week 2 observations

All fantasy eyes are on the many offensive stars who have been dealing with various injuries throughout the offseason, such as Steve Smith, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook. And for good reason; each can be an integral contributor to your fantasy title hopes in 2009.

But educated Fantasy Fools look beyond the obvious by also keeping track of injuries to key offensive linemen. After all, QBs take a pounding and RBs get stuffed behind the line of scrimmage when the big guys up-front can't hold their own against their opponents.

We witnessed the impact of OL injuries early last season in both Indy and Jacksonville, where multiple starters missed time, leading to slow starts for their respective offensive stars. The same was true in KC and St. Louis, where both Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson started slowly out of the gate.

So when you hear that Seattle All Pro LT Walter Jones is heading for yet another knee surgery that will keep him sidelined for several weeks, and C Chris Spencer (pictured above) left last night's game with a quad injury, all of which comes after the team had already lost LG Mike Wahle to retirement, red flags should be going up all over the Seahawks' fantasy prospects. I've started hearing a lot of upbeat prognostications from other fantasy experts about Matt Hasselbeck, Julius Jones, TJ Houshmandzadeh and others. But unless and until the team gets its O-line foundation in order, I'm staying away from those guys. Hasselbeck can't work his magic on his back.

The same goes for Matt Cassel, who was sacked four times in one half of work against a Minnesota defense that was playing without All Pro DLs Pat Williams and Jared Allen. Everyone was gushing about Cassel's TD connection with Dwayne Bowe, but they neglected to note that Cassel was running for his life on that play, and was taken down four other times on the night. KC's O-line has some glaring deficiencies, so factor that into your thinking about Cassel, Bowe and Larry Johnson on draft night.

And what about Steven Jackson, whose OL is not much better than it was last year (rookie OT Jason Smith notwithstanding)? With Marc Bulger and Donny Avery both rehabbing injuries, Jackson will be option 1, 2 and 3 in that offense in the early part of the regular season. As great as he is, the odds (and opposing defenses) will be stacked against him yet again. That makes him an awfully risky first-round selection.

Pay attention, Fools!

Other quick hits from around the league:

Brandon Marshall was left behind on the Broncos' trip to Seattle, despite being healthy enough to play. This could be a sign that the team is working on a trade behind the scenes and/or considering a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. As I've been saying all summer, avoid Marshall like the plague on draft day.

Jay Cutler finally looked sharp in a Bears uniform, leading TD drives of 80 and 92 yards against the Giants last night. It helped that Matt Forte -- who I still contend is the optimal No. 2 fantasy draft pick -- raced for a 32-yard TD run to cap the first of those long drives.

Troy Williamson is making a strong case for sleeper status after his 147-yard receiving effort against the Bucs on Saturday, highlighted by a 74-yard scoring grab. That's two terrific preseason outings in a row for Minnesota's former first-round bust, who is making a strong case to start for the Jags opposite fellow newcomer Torry Holt. If Mike Walker (ankle) doesn't get on the field pronto, Williamson will win the job by default.

Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez are already in mid-season form. Atlanta's offense might just be the most balanced, and explosive, in the NFL this season. Though Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant and Greg Jennings might have something to say about that.

Don't hesitate to make DeAngelo Williams your first-round selection once AP, Forte, Turner and possibly MJD are off the board. With Jonathan Stewart plagued by an Achilles injury, Williams may not have to share as many carries as expected, especially early in the season.

Finally, you can believe the pundits who are telling you that Willie Parker won't get the ball on goal-line carries, or you can watch the game. You know, the one where he took the handoff at the Redskins' 3-yard-line and scored? I'm just saying...

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